Time for another adventure without subtitles – this time the latest Jr NTR release Baadshah. There was a surprising new innovation at the cinema too – the addition of a queuing system! No free-for-all crush to get in and grab a seat! This meant less conversation outside, but more time for discussions inside as it took quite a while for the trickle of people to slowly fill up the cinema. Needless to say there were still plenty of chants and cheers (and a lot of seat swapping) as the cinema was full for the first night show.
Not understanding Telugu turned out to be not too much of a problem this time since Baadshah closely resembles director Srinu Vaitla’s last venture, Dookudu – even including a similar convoluted scam as the comedy track. Despite the air of déjà vu, there was still plenty to enjoy with well-choreographed action scenes, awesome dancing from Tarak and (judging from the audience response anyway) some entertaining dialogue.
The film opens with a voice-over from Mahesh Babu, who is the first of a number of guest artists to appear in the film, although there is a large and impressive support cast too. Tarak is Baadshah, the son of gangster Ranjan (Mukesh Rishi) who successfully runs a casino in Macau. Ranjan works for international crime lord Sadhu Bhai (Kelly Dorji) and the first half sets up the inevitable struggle between young upstart Baadshah and the established boss. Sadhu Bhai does have a rather swish Asian inspired lair, with a very shiny black table but otherwise Kelly Dorji’s villain is fairly routine. I do wish he would cut his hair though – it’s too wispy to be effective as an evil crime lord look! Sadhu Bhai has the assistance of Crazy Robert (Ashish Vidardhi) and Violent Victor (Pradeep Rawal) who both do their best to eliminate Baadshah and his father which keeps the body count relatively high in the first half. There is also some painfully bad violin playing, which even Kajal attempts to my horror!
Baadshaah ends up in Milan in time for the first excellent dance number, and this gives him the opportunity to meet Janaki (Kajal Agarwal). After the usual misunderstandings – she thinks he’s trying to commit suicide while he fails to mention any of his gangster affiliations – the two get together for a romantic song in the snow. This would have been much better without the addition of some dreadful female backing dancers who looked out of place and uncomfortable wearing jeans under their saris and clomping around in Ugg boots while sliding around in the snow. They did make Kajal look like a professional dancer in comparison though, so perhaps that was the whole point?
Janaki just happens to be the daughter of the Commissioner of Police Jai Krishna Simha (Nasser) and once back in Hyderabad is supposed to be getting married to another police officer Aadi (Navadeep). I’m not sure if Navadeep was trying to portray angry and forceful for his character here, but he didn’t make it past mildly petulant and mainly just looked as if he had smelt something bad. Siddharth on the other hand puts in a good performance in his brief guest appearance as Baadshah’s brother. By the start of the second half, not only does Baadshah have to deal with the threat of Sadhu Bhai and his evil plans to blow up most of India, but he also has to get rid of Aadi and deal with the police if he wants to get the girl.
While the comedy in the first half comes from M. S. Narayana as a spoof film director, Brahmi appears in the second half and his character Padmanabha Simha takes over the comedy proceedings, and most of the action as well. Although the humour was mainly dialogue based there was plenty that made me laugh even as a non-Telugu speaker. The audience loved it judging by the response, but the biggest cheer of the night went to a dance by Janaki’s female relatives at the Sangeet ceremony.
The film depends heavily on Tarak’s screen presence and thankfully he delivers on every scene, whether it’s action, comedy or in the dance sequences, although he is somewhat side-lined by Brahmi in the second half. It was great to see some better choreography, without so much emphasis on ‘trick’ steps, although the item numbers weren’t up to the same level.
Kajal is good as Janaki, but she looks almost subdued in a number of sensible outfits and I thought her make-up made her look tired. However she did seem to get some good dialogue, and at least she had a meatier role than usual for a ‘love interest’ character. The support actors in general were reprising roles they have done many times in the past although most didn’t have a lot to do. I was delighted to see Ajay back on screen as a gang member, even if only for a short time!
Baadshah follows a predictable path, but it’s entertaining with plenty of variety and it’s not quite as gore-soaked as Dhammu or Oosaravelli. I loved the action sequences and Tarak’s dancing was an absolute stand-out in the first half, but for me the second half dragged due to the more dialogue driven comedy scenes. The film could also have done without two item numbers, neither of which were particularly impressive. But overall this was a fun film to watch and I’m looking forward to the DVD where I can work out all those references to old NTR films.